Penned in 1949, George Orwell’s famous work of fiction 1984 is perhaps best known for its foretelling of the type of surveillance that many feel pervades modern society. Not least of all, some see Orwell’s depictions of a government preoccupied with spying on its citizens coming true before our very eyes.
Like other metropolitan areas throughout the world, cities in North Carolina have, to one extent or another, embraced broad surveillance programs under the guise of making our streets safer. Whether these programs make law enforcement easier or more challenging remains to be seen, as does the final determination regarding whether the cost to civil liberties and personal freedoms is worth the gains we may achieve in public safety.
Can the police videotape me before I’m even arrested?
In Charlotte, like most metropolitan areas, the answer to this question is a definitive yes. Police in this municipality are in the process of adopting four-ounce cameras as standard issue for police, which are to be mounted on glasses or other parts of the body and can record every police encounter. Footage from these cameras is uploaded in docking stations after each shift. The technology not only assists law enforcement, but also citizens who believe they are the victims of police brutality can seek to use the footage to prove their cases. Critics wonder, however, how available the taxpayer-funded footage can really be to the average North Carolinian since it is not classified as a public record to which society at large has a right to access.
Can I be recorded by hidden cameras in public places without my permission?
Chances are you have already been recorded without your knowledge. Durham, for example, installed a camera system more than five years ago, and Charlotte police maintain 130 outside surveillance cameras to monitor criminal activity and stay on top of large gatherings. Fayetteville is currently setting up a similar surveillance system with tiny, wireless cameras that zoom in and out of streets, parks and sidewalks. While critics view these cameras as Big Brother-esque intrusions about which many citizens aren’t even aware, law enforcement insists the cameras are necessary and effective.